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The Jersey Central through Roselle, Roselle Park, Aldene, and Cranford

"The Big Little Railroad"
Cranford, Aldene, Roselle
Park, Roselle

CNJ 4-6-4-T #230 is seen here at the Cranford Roundhouse. 9/1938.
Photo taken by George E. Votava.

Western Union Supply Car

This Western Union supply car, used to store tools and such, sat in the Cranford Junction yards for years and years. Of particular note are the car's ancient fox trucks which dated from the Civil War. One day the car was dismantled.

The photo below was taken on
February 6, 1954 by John Dziobko.

CNJ ALCo RS-3 #1562 at Cranford. June, 1975. Karl Greffchen photo.

Roselle, Roselle Park, Aldene, andCranford were great places to see a great deal of railroad action in their hey-day. The main railroad through this section was the Central Railroad of New Jersey (a.k.a. "Jersey Central" or 'CNJ' or 'CRR of NJ') with its four track mainline, plus drill tracks. The CNJ was a hot-bed of activity here. Long freights and famous passenger trains passed through here on their way to the Communipaw Terminal in Jersey City.

Also, through trackage rights, the Reading and Baltimore & Ohio railroads operated over the CNJ main as several of their named trains, such as the Reading's "Crusader" and the B&O's "Royal Blue," terminated at Communipaw. But perhaps the best action to see here was all the switching operations. Two shortlines, the independent Rahway Valley Railroad (RV) and the B&O owned Staten Island Rapid Transit Railway (SIRT) made connections with the CNJ at Aldene Junction and Cranford Junction, respectively.

The CNJ also had a number of facilities located at Aldene/Cranford, including their Cranford Roundhouse, the Excee Tower (also known as "X C" Tower), and the first and second Aldene Stations (the first of which may have been RVRR-owned). The CNJ also had other stations located in Cranford and Roselle Park, but they are not part of this page.

Aldene is the name of a section of the town of Roselle Park. Aldene, or rather "Aldene Junction " in railroad terms, was where the Rahway Valley Railroad and the CNJ made their interchange, dating as early as the New York & New Orange Railroad which built the original connection in circa 1898. The original configuration was that the Rahway Valley trackage curved east into Aldene on the northern side of the CNJ, went under the LV, passed the original Aldene Station and connected with the CNJ. Later, post-Aldene Plan of 1967, the Rahway Valley trackage was flipped to curve westward into Aldene. There was a small, but adequate, interchange located here on the northern side of the CNJ main which the Rahway Valley utilized.

Cranford, or rather "Cranford Junction," is where the Staten Island Rapid Transit Railway (later the Staten Island Railroad, then Staten Island Railway), a subsidiary of the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad, interchanged with the CNJ. The SIRT trackage interchanged on the southern side of the CNJ main. There was also a sizable yard located where the CNJ met the SIRT

The Lehigh Valley Railroad also passed through this area on an embankment which elevated the line through this area. The Lehigh Valley Railroad bridged over the four track CNJ mainline, which is the large truss bridge seen in photos in this section. In early times the LV was a level route through this area and made a switch connection with the CNJ. When the CNJ denied the LV to make a 'diamond' crossing of their mainline as part of their extension to Newark, the LV trackage was elevated and built over the Jersey Central track, which discontinued the CNJ-LV interchange here. In other, nearby, areas the LV made connections with the Rahway Valley Railroad (at Roselle Park) and the Staten Island Rapid Transit Railway (at Staten Island Junction in Cranford).

Although the focus of this website is the Rahway Valley Railroad, the amount of activity at Aldene/Cranford encircling the CNJ, B&O, RDG, SIRT, as well as the RV is too difficult to ignore, and was a big part of the Rahway Valley story. This page is an attempt to capture, at least just a little bit, of the history and action that was present at Aldene/Cranford at one point in time.





Station: Roselle & Roselle Park

Locomotive Servicing Facilities







Station: Aldene  (1st)

Station: Aldene (2nd)

Central Junction
Lehigh Valley Railroad

Aldene Junction
Rahway Valley Railroad




Station: Cranford  (1st)

Station: Cranford (2nd)

Station: Cranford  (3rd)

Station: Cranford (4th)

Locomotive Servicing Facilities

X C Tower
(a.k.a. Excee Tower)

Cranford Junction
Staten Island Rapid Transit Ry.
(B&O owned)

See Also

The Cranford Drill                             The "Weekend Wait" at Aldene and Cranford

4 Railroads, Interchanges, Junctions Yards by Warren Crater. Railroad Model Craftsman. 7/1949.

The Aldene Plan of 1967                           The Suzie-Q at Aldene and Cranford


CNJ Cambelbacks #769 and #759 are seen here, at Aldene, steaming in the shadow of the Garden State Parkway pointing eastbound. 3/7/1954.

Roselle/Roselle Park Station

The first Aldene Station

The second Aldene Station

Cranford Station

X C Tower



The "Big Little Railroad"


The Central Railroad of New Jersey (a.k.a. the Jersey Central, Jersey Central Lines, New Jersey Central, CNJ, CRRofNJ) was a small Class I railroad operating the states of New Jersey and Pennsylvania. The CNJ traces its roots to the Elizabethtown & Somerville (E&S) and Somerville & Easton (S&E) railroads. The E&S was chartered on February 9, 1831. By January 1, 1839 trains were running between Elizabethport (today's Elizabeth) and Plainfield, NJ.  By 1842 the railroad reached Somerville, NJ. The E&S faced financial instability and was sold a public auction. With a mind towards westward expansion, on February 20, 1847 the S&E was chartered to build towards Easton, PA. The E&S and S&E were merged on April 1, 1849 to form the Central Railroad of New Jersey. By July of 1852 service had been opened as far west as Phillipsburg, NJ and three years later was extended across the Delaware River to South Easton, PA.  

The CNJ's lines in Pennsylvania were contructed by the Lehigh & Susquehanna Railroad whose parent was the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company. The L&S mainline between Phillipsburg, PA and Wilke-Barre, PA was completed in 1866. The CNJ began leasing the L&S on March 31, 1871. By May 1, 1888 service reached Scranton, PA. The Lehigh & Susquehanna Division of the CNJ proved vital as it tapped the coal regions of northeastern-Pennsylvania. The business of transporting "black diamonds" from the Pennsylvania coal mines eastward to consumers in the metropolitan areas of New York and New Jersey proved to be vital to the CNJ - the "bread and butter" for the railroad.

Expansion into South Jersey came in the form of the New Jersey Southern Railroad which had begun construction at Port Monmouth, NJ in 1860. The railroad expanded southwestward across lower New Jersey and reached Bayside, NJ on the Delaware River, west of Bridgeton, NJ in 1871. The New Jersey Southern Railroad came under the control of the CNJ in 1879 - becoming the "Southern Division." Further expansion came with the leasing of the New York & Long Branch Railroad. An agreement with the Pennsylvania Railroad, to avoid parallel competing lines, made on January 3, 1882 led to the NY&LB being split between the CNJ and the PRR. The CNJ and the PRR also jointly owned the Raritan River Railroad (RRRR) but that line was independently managed and operated.

The Philadelphia & Reading Railroad became interested in the fledgling CNJ. The P&R leased the CNJ from 1883 to 1887 and again from 1891 to 1893. CNJ briefly resumed independent operations after a reorganization in 1887. This was not to last however. In 1901 the Reading Company, successor to the P&R acquired controlling interest of the CNJ through the purchase of the majority of the CNJ's stock. At about the same time the Baltimore & Ohio Railroad (B&O) had acquired control of the Reading. This arrangement led to Reading and B&O trains operating directly to the CNJ's terminal in Jersey City at Communipaw. Ferry services, operated by the CNJ, were provided from Communipaw to New York City. The CNJ also operated a small carfloat terminal in the Bronx in New York City. Reading control lasted until August 31, 1944 when the CNJ emerged independent under the new moniker - Jersey Central Lines. The railroad's new emblem became the Statue of Liberty and became known as the "Big Little Railroad."

On the passenger end of things, as early as 1862 the CNJ was advertising its "Allentown Route" to Chicago - the "shortest link to the west" it was billed. As the years went by, passenger service evolved and saw the establishment of daily commuter service to Elizabethport, Jersey City, and New York City. The CNJ was also the host to many famous named passenger trains such as: the "Mermaid" from Scranton to seashore towns along the NY&LB, the "Queen of the Valley" from Jersey City to Harrisburg, PA, the "Bullet" from Jersey City to Wilkes-Barre, PA, the "Williamsporter" from Jersey City to Williamsport, PA, the "Philadelphia Flyer" and the "Scranton Flyer." CNJ rails were also host to the Reading's "Crusader" and "Wall Street" which both operated between Philadelphia, PA and Jersey City, as well as the B&O's "Royal Blue," "Diplomat," "Capitol Limited," and "National Limited" trains. The most famous of these named trains however was the storied "Blue Comet" which operated between Jersey City and Atlantic City, NJ from 1929 to 1941.  

The CNJ was always on the financial edge of failure throughout almost its entire existance. The burdensome taxes placed upon the CNJ by the State of New Jersey led to the railroad filing for bankruptcy on October 31, 1939. The railroad did not emerge from bankruptcy until October 3, 1949 - almost 10 years to the day - when the CNJ was returned to its stockholders. CNJ President Earl T. Moore was presented as "key of freedom" from trustee Walter P. Gardner. Continued financial burdens hampered the modernization of motive power. The last steamer was acquired in 1930 and complete dieselization did not occur until 1954.

Although anthracite coal tonnage was replaced by bituminous coal tonnage, coal shipments continued to dwindle as homes and electric power plants in the NJ/NY metropoliation area discontinued to utilize coal as a fuel source. Futhermore, the Big Little Railroad faced other serious economic and operating problems. The CNJ's longest haul line was only 191 miles from Scranton to Jersey City, its heavy concentration of terminal switching and local service, together with a very large commuter trade, all were extremely costly, low mileage situations.

The 1960's and 1970's were marred by losses and deep cuts. Despite acquiring portions of the Lehigh & New England Railroad in 1961 the CNJ opted to give up all its lines in Pennsylvania in 1972 - pawning them off to the Lehigh Valley Railroad. The State of New Jersey stepped in and began subsizing CNJ passenger operations in 1964 and implemented the Aldene Plan in 1967. On March 22, 1967 the CNJ filed for bankruptcy for the final time. On April 1, 1976 the CNJ was absorbed into Consolidated Railroad Corporation (Conrail).


CNJ ALCo RS-3 #1555 at Roselle. November 22, 1966. Rick Stotz photo.

Disclaimer: This map incorporates features present along this stretch of the CNJ from as early as 1908 all the way through to the 1950's. This map shows "max trackage" for this period - meaning the sum of all tracks present in this period are shown. This map should not be used as an absolute resource but as a frame of reference. Drawn by Richard J. King 4/2014.

Westbound train at Roselle/Roselle Park, bound for Mauch Chunk. CNJ ALCo RS-3 #1546 leads the consist. The Walnut Street overpass is in the background. 7/1950. Photo taken by John Dziobko.

A pair of CNJ Budd RDC's are eastbound at Aldene. The plant which later became Romerovski's is seen on the right. At this time it is Gulistans. The Lehigh Valley embankment is seen in the background.

CNJ Camelback #761 roars through Aldene, having just passed underneath the Lehigh Valley Railroad, on point of a short westbound commuter train. The train is on Track 2. This view was taken from the Aldene Pedestrian Bridge. 1930.Collection of Rick Stotz.

CNJ #810 (4-6-2 Pacific) is seen here heading westbound at the head of a nine car passenger train through Aldene. In the background, on the Lehigh Valley, can be seen an ALCo PA-1 leading a passenger consist. Note the combination signal bridge - passenger walkover. Photo taken by Bob Collins.

Train #104 is seen here heading eastbound through Cranford, with a Railway Post Office car on the tail end. CNJ #835 (4-6-2 Pacific) is at the lead. Photo taken by Bob Collins.

The photographer is standing alongside the Staten Island (SIRT) tracks with the busy CNJ mainline just up ahead. A CNJ passenger train, headed up by a Camelback, can be seen heading towards Cranford Station. The SIRT's tracks curve to the left and splay out into the many tracks of the west Cranford Junction yard. Switching operations in the west Cranford Junction yard often blocked South Avenue, sometimes for hours. The flashing signals were for South Ave. were triggered by a wooden lever switch located in the box mounted on the Staten Island's Freight Agency station seen on the right. The Staten Island's station here was strictly a Freight Agency Station, although the SIRT briefly operated passenger service between Staten Island, NY and Plainfield, NJ in the early 1900's. A third of the Station Agent's pay came from the CNJ. Behind the agency station can be seen the SIRT's Armstrong Turntable, used to spin the Staten Island's steamers around and pointed back east towards Staten Island. The mess of wires above the roadway are for Public Service's #49 bus line, operated with electric buses (the successor to the trolley).

JA-5 in Cranford: Afternoon Freight to Allentown

The afternoon westbound freight to Allentown, PA, JA-5, is headed by an A-B-A set of EMD F-3's. The train is seen here as it passes through Cranford. In the photo on the right, portions of the Cranford Roundhouse, water tower, and coal tipple can be seen. 8/1950.

The Rahway Valley Railroad would drop off cars in the morning and if there were any westbound cars the JA-5 would pick them up. The morning trains would drop off cars. Photos taken by John Dziobko

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